Monday, 22 October 2012

Heads I win, tails you lose

Francis Spufford, teases the New Atheists again, this time in New Humanist. Well, you can’t accuse him of being too scared to step into the lion’s den:
For many of you, the point of atheism appears to be not the non-relationship with God but a live and hostile relationship with believers. It isn’t enough that you yourselves don’t believe: atheism permits a delicious self-righteous anger at those who do. The very existence of religion seems to be an affront, a liberty being taken, a scab you can’t help picking. People who don’t like stamp-collecting don’t have a special magazine called The Anti-Philatelist. But you do. You do the equivalent of hanging about in front of Stanley Gibbons to orate about the detestability of phosphor bands and perforations.
From a purely tactical viewpoint, you’ve got to admire Spufford's psychoanalytical counter-gambit:

New Atheist: I’ve taken the time to examine your belief system in some detail, and I think it’s very silly. Specifically, it’s full of implausibilities, inconsistencies, assertions that contradict things we're pretty sure we know about nature, some dodgy history and some very dodgy morality. I can provide citations.

Doctor Spufford: Very interesting. I am sensing a great deal of anger. You have spent a very long time researching and talking about this this topic, which clearly shows that your repressed hostility is expressing itself in the form of an obsessive personality disorder, a scab you cannot help picking, if you will. Please tell me about your childhood.

So, Mr. New Atheist, it turns out that you're not so ignorant about religion that we can safely ignore your criticism. Unfortunately, you seem to have done so much swotting that you must obviously be some kind of obsessive anti-social weirdo dweeb, therefore your criticism is not valid. By the way, have you stopped beating your wife?

I'm not sure that the Anti-Philatelist gag actually moves the substantive argument forward, but that's some nifty debating footwork.